Articles for Veterans & their Families
Long Term Care Can Be the Greatest Crisis Seniors Will Face.
All elderly people, regardless of current health, should plan for this crisis in their lives. And indeed, long term care can be the greatest crisis an older person ever faces. With the need for care, the elder loses his or her grasp on the three most important lifestyle concerns in old age; (1) Remaining independent (2) Having enough money (3) Maintaining good health They all disappear with the need for care. No wonder elderly care recipients withdraw, become angry and lose an interest in living. And the cost of care can wipe out a lifetime of savings and destroy equity in a home.
The articles below & to the right focus on ways veterans (the elderly) and their families can plan for long term care and maintain their health, independence, and savings.
What is the Veterans Aid & Attendance pension benefit?
"Aid and attendance" is a commonly used term for a little-known veterans' disability income. The official title of this benefit is "Pension." The reason for using "aid and attendance" to refer to Pension is that many veterans or their single surviving spouses can become eligible if they have a regular need for the aid and attendance of a caregiver or if they are housebound. Evidence of this need for care must be certified by VA as a "rating." With a rating, certain veterans or their surviving spouses can now qualify for Pension. Pension is also available to low income veteran households without a rating, but it is a lesser dollar amount.
The Special Case of Long Term Care Medical Costs
A special provision for calculating Pension income, allows household income to be reduced by 12 months worth of future, recurring medical expenses. Normally, income is only reduced by medical expenses incurred in the immediate months prior to application. These allowable, annualized medical expenses are such things as insurance premiums, the cost of home care, the cost of paying any person to provide care, the cost of adult day care, the cost of assisted living and the cost of a nursing home facility.
Using Benefits to Pay Any Person for Care in the Home
Most people who have heard about Pension know that it will cover the costs of assisted living and, in some cases, cover nursing home costs as well. But the majority of those receiving long term care in this country are in their homes. Estimates are that approximately 70% to 80% of all long term care is being provided in the home. All of the information available about Pension overlooks the fact that this benefit should be used to pay for home care. Maybe if more people knew this fact, more people would be applying for the benefit.
It also comes as a surprise to most people that VA will allow veterans' households to deduct the annual cost of paying any person such as family members, friends or hired help for care when calculating the Pension benefit. This annual cost is then used to calculate the benefit based on a new "countable income" and allows families earning more than the pension benefit to receive a disability income from VA...
The Application Process for Aid and Attendance Pension
Pension (aid and attendance benefit) and its sister benefit, Compensation, are two disability income programs available to veterans. Compensation is the more heavily used benefit and is available to veterans who have service-connected disabilities. VA estimates about 35% of all currently discharging veterans will apply for Compensation some time during their lives. Pension is a lesser used benefit and a lesser known disability income that is available to veterans who served during a period of war. Pension is available to war veterans who are non-service-connected disabled or age 65 and older. Special death benefit arrangements related to these two disability programs are also available to surviving dependents of veterans.
Claims for Compensation and Pension are submitted on the same application form and VA can grant either one. Generally, Compensation is the more desirable benefit because there is no income or asset test and it is not taxable as income. Pension works best for veteran households with very low income who do not qualify for Compensation. Pension also fits well for veteran households incurring the high costs of long term care services and in these cases may be a better alternative to Compensation...
The Best Health Care System in America
It comes as a surprise to some people who had experience with VA health care during the 1970s and 1980s that this same system is now considered the best medical care in the United States...
State Veterans Homes
State veterans homes fill an important need for veterans with low income and veterans who desire to spend their last years with "comrades" from former active-duty. The predominant service offered is nursing home care. VA nursing homes must be licensed for their particular state and conform with skilled or intermediate nursing services offered in private sector nursing homes in that state. State homes may also offer assisted living or domiciliary care which is a form of supported independent living.
Every state has at least one veterans home and some states like Oklahoma have six or seven of them. There is great demand for the services of these homes but lack of federal and state funding has created a backlog of well over 130 homes that are waiting to be built. We will discuss this problem in the section entitled "Challenges Facing the Construction of New Homes".